With temperatures hitting new record-breaking highs, members of staff could legitimately ask whether they can be kept at work as things get uncomfortable.
When the workplace gets too hot, it is more than just an issue about comfort. If the temperature goes too high, it can become a health and safety issue. People might feel dizzy and faint, as well as an increased risk of heat stroke or collapse.
Even in this new normal when many more people are working from home due to COVID-19, employers are still under an obligation to protect the health and safety of their members of staff wherever they are working.
Although organisations such as the TUC has campaigned to make it illegal to keep people at work indoors if the temperature is above 30°C as well as protection for those working outside, there is no such legal requirement. The law simply requires the temperature in the workplace to be reasonable.
What is reasonable will depend on the nature of the employer’s workplace and the work being carried out by its members of staff. Factors such as whether or not the work is strenuous or physical will need to be taken into account.
Employers also have to provide clean fresh air, as well as ensuring the temperature is at a comfortable level. Not only will opening windows and air conditioning help with keeping the temperature to a comfortable level, it would also ensure employers are making their workplaces COVID-Secure.
One potential solution employers could adopt is a more relaxed dress code and increased breaks. However the extent to which an employee may be allowed to dress down and have longer breaks when the temperature rises will in part depend on the role they perform.
In the case of customer-facing roles, certain standards may need to be maintained. Equally, for health and safety reasons, it may be necessary for employees to continue to wear protective clothing irrespective of summer heat. Either way, organisations should ensure their response in a heatwave is reasonable, appropriate to the needs of the particular business and does not discriminate particular groups of employees.
If a significant number of your employees are complaining about thermal discomfort, you should carry out a risk assessment, and act on the results of that assessment. If however your employees are more vulnerable, that also has to be taken into account.
So the answer is simple, if enough of your employees state they are uncomfortable, the Company will have to act.